The story of a visit to Fort Ticonderoga in 1872.
Part 2, Overland passage to the Fort.
Upon leaving the docks on the stagecoach bound for Fort Ticonderoga, Stoddard records that William Baldwin immediately set to entertaining and educating his passengers during the hour-long journey to the Fort; sometimes boasting of the famous passengers he has had the pleasure of carrying and at other times pointing out natural curiosities along the way. Upon nearing the village of Ticonderoga Baldwin exclaims “Ladies and gentlemen, you will see, if you please, on your left, a great natural curiosity – an oak and an elm growing from one stump; you can see by the bark and by the leaves that there is no mistake about it; it is truly a great natural curiosity; and what God has joined together let not man put asunder!”
In passing through Ticonderoga and by its several sets of waterfalls on the La Chute River, Stoddard records that Ticonderoga is a “thriving little village containing about 1,500 inhabitants, three or four churches, schools, an academy, woolen factory – noted for producing a remarkably good quality of cloth – two hotels, several stores, black lead mill, etc.” Upon leaving the bounds of the village, Stoddard remarks “Glancing backward we see the lovely little village; its white houses and church spires gleaming through the dark green foliage of oaks, shut in by mountains that come down round about on every side; the divided falls flashing and foaming white, with a foreground of waving grasses and lily-pads.” 19th century Ticonderoga was surely a prosperous town.
As Baldwin’s caravan approaches the Fort’s historic garrison grounds Stoddard notes that “Arriving at the top of the hill we find a broad plateau, along which, in a south-easterly direction, we go, and entering a field through a gate, which is opened by a muddy little boy, are upon the bloody battle ground in front of the old French lines.” He further states “We cross the “old French lines,” full of angles, fronted by a deep ditch, and extending through the woods to the water on either side, past two or three redouts, and come in sight of the ruins, a quarter of a mile distant.” But to Stoddard’s chagrin, the ruins are not Baldwin’s prime objective; getting his passengers to the Lake Champlain dock below the Fort in a timely manner is his priority. Upon catching his first glimpse of Fort Ticonderoga’s ruins Stoddard writes “What memories cluster around the gray old promontory? What a history is thine, oh, crumbling Ticonderoga? Enough for another chapter! So, let us hasten to the hotel, down among the locusts, where a good dinner is awaiting, after which we can moralize, and paw among the ruins to our heart’s content.”
The hotel that Stoddard refers to is the Fort Ticonderoga Hotel which he describes, “was built in 1826, by William F. Pell, for a summer residence, and first occupied as a hotel in 1840, at which time the grounds were thrown open to the public. The central portion is two stories high, with a double piazza; the front supported by massive columns on which vines climb to the roof above; on either side extend long, low wings with glass enclosed verandas, and rooms en suite at the extreme ends. The house faces the east, and is fronted by an extensive lawn covered by locusts and Lombardy poplars through which a plank walk leads down to the steamboat dock and a road leads north through the fields to Addison Junction, over which a free carriage conveys guests to and from all trains. Just back of the house are the ruins. The accommodations are first-class, but limited, the chief business being the dinner provided for excursionists, and for which the house has become celebrated. Altogether it is a very enjoyable place.”
To be continued…
Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator, Fort Ticonderoga.